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Maplewood Richmond-Heights The Laramie Project

By • Oct 23rd, 2012 • Category: Cappies, Missouri

Fourteen years ago, the hamlet of Laramie, Wyoming experienced a tragedy. Murder. A college student, Matthew Shepard, was ruthlessly killed because of his sexual orientation. Sprouting from the crime was outrage from supporters and opposers of homosexuality alike that raised awareness regarding discrimination based on sexual orientation. The aftermath was the birth of a play. The Laramie Project illustrates Laramie’s response to Matthew Shepard’s death. The heart-wrenching story presents the views of those both for and against homosexuality. Performed by Maplewood Richmond-Heights High School, the play ignited as much controversy as when the play was first published. Proving the significance of the piece, was Westboro Baptist Church’s protest on the day of the performance, where many took a stand against the play and homosexuality. Despite the opposition, MRH High School students persevered with courage to put an end to discrimination. The show was a statement. A statement for love, and a cry for peace.

The Laramie Project has many unique components. The cast consists of a few actors who perform in many different roles. Notable was Presten Pinnell, who played four roles, but most prominently the character, Matt Galloway. Pinnell was a memorable actor because he was consistent in creating different characterizations in each role. Also masterful was Ben Speed (Jedadiah Schultz and Aaron McKinney) who was almost unrecognizable as the same person with his different characters’ vocals and mannerisms. Leading the show with consistency in character and strong stage presence was Taylor Kennedy (Romaine Patterson), who provided comic relief and insight into the story that no other character could provide. Unique to MRH’s cast was the incorporation of four adults who each eloquently played a multitude of roles. The inclusion of adults created diversity in size and maturity on stage.

The talent of the students was exemplified in their design and construction of the set. The set was beautifully simple, made only of wood. Rotating panels symbolized different locations, but remained simple and open to interpretation. James Owens (set designer) overcame a giant task in building the massive structure on stage. Occasionally, the audience struggled to hear actors on stage. Viewing the characters became an issue, as lighting did not consistently highlight the speaker. However, lighting was notably gentle in how it was placed on the wooden frames of the set, creating a look of peace. Adding to the effective simplicity of the show was costuming, in which characters wore black shirts and jeans, with subtleties added to change their characters.

Overall, the cast of MRH High School’s production of The Laramie Project successfully portrayed the message of standing against those who discriminate because of sexual orientation. However, even greater emotion from the actors would have been welcomed in order to move the audience more effectively. Matthew Shepard would be proud of MRH High School’s bravery in their battle to defend their moral convictions despite their opposition and people everywhere should follow their lead. Let us all make a similar statement.

by Allie Sanderson of Holt High School

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